When Chula Vista police officer Jeffrey Hughes heard a story from a fellow officer about a boy attending a local school who had holes in his shoes and old dirty socks, Hughes decided to do something about it.
Hughes knows what it’s like growing up with holes in his tennis shoes.
He said often times as a boy he would have worn out shoes but never said anything to his parents because he didn’t want to burden them. He doesn’t want kids today to experience what he did.
As part of the Chula Vista Police School Resource Officer Shoe and Sock Event, the 13-year police veteran has helped provide more than 2,500 pairs of socks and shoes to boys and girls in the Chula Vista Elementary and Sweetwater Union High School districts.
For his service to these children, the San Diego Juvenile Commission will be honoring Hughes with the Law Enforcement Service Award on July 18 at the University of San Diego.
School administrators and nurses help Hughes identify the kids who could benefit from having the new socks and shoes.
Hughes said children receiving services from the South Bay Community Services are also able to get shoes and socks from his event.
The award “honors employees and volunteers who have personified excellence and performance above and beyond the call of duty and job description in order to improve the lives of our dependent and delinquent youth,” according to a commission press release.
Hughes is one of four officers in the county being recognized by the San Diego Juvenile Commission.
Hughes said being honored for the award means a lot.
“No officer from Chula Vista has ever won this award, so I’m very honored to receive this,” he said.
The shoe and sock drive was supposed to be a one-time event, but that changed when Hughes witnessed how great the need was.
He decided to hold the event twice a year.
“Initially, I had no idea it was turning into more than one event,” Hughes said.
“After the first event, I knew I needed to do this again. The need for children who needed socks and shoes was too great.”
The sock and shoe drive happens at the beginning of the school year and after the Christmas break. Hughes said he does the drive twice a year because most shoes don’t last the entire year, and kids typically outgrow their shoes rapidly.
Hughes teamed up with Payless ShoeSource at Chula Vista Center to provide the much-needed shoes.
He also receives monetary donations from Walmart.
Payless opens its store early on a Sunday morning to let the children pick a pair of shoes and a pack of socks with their parents and the officer.
Hughes said the event is for all kids. If a kid who is receiving brand new shoes and socks has a sibling in need of both items, the sibling can get shoes and socks, too.
“The goal is to help as many boys and girls as possible,” Hughes said.
Hughes said his duty as a police officer goes beyond protecting the community.
“Police work isn’t just about making arrests, it is also about helping the community,” Hughes said.